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Ann Arbor Spark

May 11, 2021

University of Michigan Graduate Returns to Ann Arbor, Builds Community in Tech

It’s graduation season and college grads are embracing their next ambitious adventure. Some may follow in the footsteps of Rachel Phillips, who after graduating from the University of Michigan moved from Ann Arbor to San Francisco to pursue her career. After six years in California, she returned to Ann Arbor, ready to connect with the city in a new way as a professional.

While Rachel was born in Long Beach, California, her parents were both originally from Michigan and when she was five years old the family returned to the Great Lakes State. “At U-M, I wrote for the university’s first student-run food blog and interned at Food Network. I wanted to work in the hospitality industry and felt San Francisco was the perfect place for that.”

Rachel’s first job was at a PR firm with wineries for clients. Over the years, she transitioned from client-facing roles to in-house to do marketing and public relations for a rapidly growing restaurant group. “While I was working in California, I worked around and partnered with tech companies, but I wasn’t employed by a tech company.” Meanwhile, news about Ann Arbor and Detroit was starting to reach Rachel. “There was so much great press coming out of the region about the startup activity. It was very exciting. I was reading everything I could about the companies, the talent, and the exciting projects happening here.”  

Eventually, Rachel started to yearn for a return to Michigan. “I missed the seasons and my family who were still here. I was also attracted to the idea of being a part of something that was still being formed. In San Francisco, so much was happening, but I wanted to be able to make a bigger impact.”

That bigger impact took shape in the creation of Shine & Rise, a networking organization that supports women working in tech around southeast Michigan. “When I moved back, I was working out of Cahoots, a coworking space in downtown Ann Arbor. Alison Todak, who was the managing director at the time, had already been talking to our other co-founder Kristina Oberly about creating something like this.” Without hesitation, Rachel joined Alison and Kristina in the effort.

“It’s been really rewarding. I wouldn’t have built a network as fast as I have, nor would I have met so many wonderful people, had we not started Shine & Rise. We continue to grow, we have members in Ann Arbor, Detroit, and the surrounding regions. We have interest from people who are looking to move here and build a network before they arrive. Today, our members represent more than 80 companies in the area.”

Most recently, Rachel transitioned to a new opportunity as the director of sales and marketing for CubeWorks, a local startup that spun out of the University of Michigan. CubeWorks recruited her after reading an article about Shine & Rise. “I’m very much enjoying my new role, and I’m proud to be a part of a cutting-edge tech company founded right here in my home state and connected with my alma mater.”

For this year’s graduates, Rachael is very optimistic. “There’s a lot of opportunity to build a career and find a community here in Ann Arbor. I know plenty of people, myself included, who would welcome a conversation with any recent graduates who are interested in a career in tech. And Shine & Rise, SPARK, and many other organizations offer great resources for anyone job hunting.”